Milwaukee Brewers: Can they win the NL Central?
Just one week ago, the Milwaukee Brewers were five games back in the division and getting ready to face the Chicago Cubs. They’re only two games back right now. Can they win the division?
At that time, the Milwaukee Brewers still had six games remaining against the Chicago Cubs, and overtaking them for the division title seemed like a tall task. But as we have just witnessed, so much can change over a week in the game of baseball. Now the Brewers have a very real chance of taking the NL Central crown away from the Cubs.
The past week for each team
After taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers followed that performance with a series sweep of the San Francisco Giants. The victory gave the Brewers their sixth straight series win, including a record of 8-2 over their last ten. The Brewers are riding a wave of momentum currently and are winning baseball games in a number of different ways.
The Cubs have not played as well lately. The Cubs seemed unstoppable for most of the summer but have gone 5-5 over their last ten games. Chicago lost this past series in Milwaukee, reducing their division lead to four and then ran into some more struggles while in Washington D.C. playing the Nationals.
After game one was postponed, the Cubs lost both games in the double-header the following day. Then Sunday’s series finale was rescheduled to this upcoming Thursday due to more poor weather rolling through the area. Given that Thursday would have been an off day for the Cubs, it is safe to assume that they would have much rather completed this last game.
Cubs upcoming schedule
This upcoming week doesn’t get much easier for the Chicago Cubs. They will head back home to face the Milwaukee Brewers for a three-game series as the Brewers are looking to overtake them for the division lead. Originally, this Thursday would have been an off day for Chicago, giving them a rest after playing 23 games in 23 days, but they’ll be back on the road.
Chicago will fly back to Washington to play the make-up game against the Nationals. They may have to face Max Scherzer again in that game. Scherzer dominated in his previous performance against the Cubs this past Saturday. Chicago will finish up the week by flying back home for a series with the Reds.
Following next week, the Cubs remaining schedule does get better for them. They will play 13 of their final 19 games at Wrigley Field. However, three of their final series will be against the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and St. Louis Cardinals. All of which are playoff contenders.
Brewers remaining schedule
The Milwaukee Brewers have a very favorable schedule to end the season. Four of their final six series will be against teams below .500, including 12 out of 18 at Miller Park. The Brewers at home are a dangerous team and boast the most home wins in the National League.
The Brewers will also have an off day every Thursday for the rest of the month. This will be very helpful as it will give the day-to-day starters and the bullpen weekly rest. It will also give manager Craig Counsell flexibility with the starting rotation and allow him to make adjustments if needed. That’s something he couldn’t do during the middle of the season.
Can Milwaukee do it?
The Milwaukee Brewers have had many guys in their lineup playing quite well over this streak including Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Jesus Aguilar among others. In addition, they have been very patient at the plate as well, which has helped them produce runs in a number of different ways other than the long ball. This has been an important part in a number of their victories.
Milwaukee has also added depth to their bullpen with September call-ups and the additions of Junior Guerra and Freddy Peralta. This gives Counsell up to 14 pitchers in the bullpen to choose from. In long relief situations Counsell has the option to choose from Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Peralta, or Guerra.
When he needs someone to come in for relief and close the game out he can choose from Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress to name a few. Having this many options, covering any scenario he may run into, is a fantastic ability to have.
What about the starting rotation?
Lastly, for the most part over this series’ winning streak, the starting rotation has pitched well and done their jobs. Wade Miley has been great since returning from the DL, and Jhoulys Chacin has been the Milwaukee Brewers most consistent starter all year. Through one start, Gio Gonzalez is looking like a change of scenery is just what he needed. And as mentioned above, if the starter is struggling, Milwaukee has a number of bullpen pitchers they can rely on.
Contrary to what many thought a week or two ago, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves within striking distance of the division title entering the final weeks. Given their remaining schedule, and the way they’ve been playing over the last month, it would not be a surprise at all if they win the NL Central.